“A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law. Further, a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs. Finally, a military chaplain’s participation does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by DoD.”(A PDF of the memo is available here.)
Kudos to the President on this one. This is a big deal, in my view. Now, legally, I believe the Pentagon allows lots of different events on its bases (thus the reason conservatives are permitted to give speeches, book signings, and even hold evangelical concerts). Thus, I suspect you could argue that permitting same-sex marriages on base does not violate DOMA because the government is not treating a same-sex marriages the same as heterosexual marriages. Rather, the government is treating one event just like any other event. For example, the government doesn’t have to condone evangelicals or Sarah Palin’s book in order to permit events related to either on their bases. So DOMA isn’t invoked. DOMA is only invoked if a gay marriage is given the same benefit as a straight marriage, and the only way it’s going to get that benefit is by being a “marriage.” In this case, lots of events are permitted on bases, not just marriages.
Now, politically one should expect the Republicans to explode. They tried once to pass an amendment banning same-sex marriages on military bases and I’m sure they’re going to do it again. It remains to be seen if some GOP nut will offer similar language in the Senate, but I can’t imagine they won’t – unless McConnell doesn’t want anything distracting Rs from the election, and lately anti-gay politics has not served the GOP well. Look at DADT. It’s been nothing but a win for this administration and Dems generally. Not only are gay Democrats more enthusiastic than before, but Republicans are smarting over the GOP debate audience’s recent booing of a gay soldier. If the Rs wants to pick a fight here, the Democrats should respond with the booing issue. So there’s danger here for the Rs as well.
So, overall, I think this is big. I also think that the administration flinched the last time the issue came up, when the House Rs went nuts over this, so this time they’d better have their ducks in a row and not mess this up.
UDPATE: More from Chris Johnson at the Blade. Sounds like my reasoning is what prevailed, that these aren’t “gay weddings,” they’re just events like every other event the Pentagon allows, straight or gay.